Court Coronavirus Information

Court Operation Guidance 

Recent Updates

December 3, 2021

Supreme Court Issues New General Emergency Order

The Supreme Court issued the Forty-Fifth Emergency Order that replaces the previous general emergency order (Forty-Third) that was set to expire on December 1. The following are the key items of the new order:

  • Reduces the time period for justice and municipal courts’ authority to modify or suspend trial-related or pretrial hearing-related deadlines and procedures for a stated period ending no later than March 1, 2022 (the Forty-Third Order had extended this authority for a stated period ending no later than April 1, 2022);
  • Subject to constitutional limitations and review for abuse of discretion, continues the authority of all courts, without a participant’s consent, to require or allow remote hearings, consider sworn statements made out of court or sworn testimony given remotely, conduct proceedings away from the court, require participants to provide certain COVID-related information to the court, and take any other reasonable action to avoid exposing court proceedings and participants to the threat of COVID-19;
  • Continues the authority of courts, without a participant’s consent, to modify certain procedures and deadlines in CPS cases for certain stated periods of time;
  • In criminal cases where confinement in jail or prison is a potential punishment, remote jury proceedings must not be conducted over the objection of the defendant or the prosecutor. In all other cases, continues the authority of courts to conduct remote jury trials without consent, except that the court must consider on the record or in a written order any objection or motion related to the remote jury proceeding;
  • Provides that a timely objection to a remote jury proceeding may be granted for good cause;
  • Continues the authority of the chief justices of the courts of appeals and local administrative district judges/municipal court presiding judges to mandate compliance with the minimum standard health protocols that they adopt for their courtrooms and the public areas of court buildings;
  • Requires OCA to continue issuing best practices as necessary.

The Forty-Fifth Emergency Order expires on February 1, 2022, unless extended by the Chief Justice.

Supreme Court Issues Emergency Order Regarding Eviction Diversion Program

The Supreme Court also issued the Forty-Fourth Emergency Order to address the closing of the Texas Eviction Diversion Program to new applicants by the Texas Department of Housing and Community Services.  The order continues the processes related to actions in which the defendant may have a pending application. The following is a summary of the key provisions/changes in the order:

  • Amends citation language that must be included in an action for eviction to recover possession of residential property to include a link to information regarding rental assistance programs generally rather than language specific to the Eviction Diversion Program;
  • Continues the requirement that a judge confirm whether or not the plaintiff has any pending applications for rental assistance, including applications for rental assistance through the Texas Eviction Diversion Program, or has provided any information or documentation directly to a rental assistance provider for the purpose of receiving rental assistance;
  • Continues the previous emergency order requirements in cases in which the plaintiff has a pending application for rental assistance (i.e., abate case for 60 days, make the case confidential, inform the parties how to reinstate the case, dismiss the case after the abatement period expires without the need for a party to file a motion or request the court to do so); and
  • Provides that if rental assistance is available, the judge should discuss available rental assistance programs and the procedures in the Forty-Fourth Emergency Order with the parties.

The Forty-Fourth Order expires on January 1, 2022, unless extended by the Chief Justice.

More than $1.6 billion in rental assistance has been or is in the process of being provided to more than 274,000 households through the state’s texasrentrelief.com program. That total includes over $177 million in assistance to more than 19,000 households through the Eviction Diversion Program. As a reminder, legal aid lawyer assistance remains available in your court through funding provided by the state. To find out more, contact Lisa Melton (ldmelton@teajf.org).

Best Practices to Address COVID-Related Backlog

OCA has published strategies/recommendations regarding caseload backlogs. The recommendations were developed with input from judges, court administrators and clerks and are intended to provide “Best Practice” solutions as courts continue efforts to address the backlog created by the pandemic.

COVID-19 Case Information

Information regarding the number of new cases in the state and your counties is available on the Department of State Health Services Dashboard. Courts should continue monitoring the local health conditions in conjunction with the local health authority in your community. Individuals who are unvaccinated should continue to be encouraged to wear face coverings and socially distance. Courts retain the authority under the Forty-Fifth Emergency Order to take reasonable actions to avoid exposing court proceedings and participants to the threat of COVID-19.

 

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact coronavirus@txcourts.gov